Volume 10 Week 10

Sunday, Dec. 14


Updated March 2

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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette





(Posted 2:30 p.m., Dec. 15)

Vintage Stock Christmas play touches on city's rich hockey heritage
By Fred Sherwin
Orleans Online

'All I Want For Christmas' is Vintage Stock Theatre's second bilingual play staged at the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum. Fred Sherwin/Photo

A very long time ago, before Foster Hewitt and Hockey Night in Canada, back in the days of Aurele Joliat, Fred "Cyclone" Taylor and Howie Morenz, NHL teams used to barnstorm through neighbouring towns to drum up support.

Members of the early Ottawa Senators used to visit places like Almonte, Smiths Falls, Richmond and even Cumberland Village, usually at the invitation of the local Catholic priest.

For many of the local kids, seeing their heroes in person was almost as exciting as seeing Santa Claus himself. The only comparison today, would be if Daniel Alfredsson or Jason Spezza flew up to some remote community in Northern Ontario and held an impromptu clinic.

Vintage Stock Theatre's latest production "All I Want For Christmas" tells the story of one such visit. Set in Cumberland Village in 1927, the play opens with Senators backup goalie Jimmy Quinn looking to get his skates sharpened at the general store.

Apparently, an accident had occurred on the railway line to Ottawa, and so he decided to skate back to the city instead along the semi-frozen Ottawa River.

When he tells the local storekeeper Mary Chaisson about his plan, she insists he spends the night with her family. The kids can hardly contain their excitement. Mary's husband Robert, however, is less enthusiastic. He grumbles in French, that Quinn is putting unrealistic dreams in his son Simon's head.

As the play unfolds we find out that Mary is minding the village store for a friend who became very ill and had to go to Toronto for treatment. The friend helped Mary when she first moved to the village after marrying Robert and taught her French, which explains why she is fluently bilingual. It also explains the presence of Mary's Irish mother Clara who isn't afraid to put her son-in-law in his place from time to time during the play.

Quinn accepts the Chaisson's invitation and spends the night, much to the delight of Simon and his older sister Anna. In return for the Chaisson's generosity, he agrees to let the kids take some shots on him the next day.

In an effort to diffuse the situation between her husband and Jimmy, Mary asks Robert to help her at the store. While the couple is moving stuff around, the audience finds out why Robert is so upset over Jimmy's presence and the effect it's having on his son.

As it turns out, he was invited to try out for the Ottawa Generals in 1902. The Generals existed at the turn of the century before they were reformed and renamed the Senators.

In order to try out for the team he skipped work and called in sick, but when his boss found out he was fired. So he ended up with no hockey career and no job. Mary then tells him that he shouldn't let his own experience ruin his son's dreams. He agrees and decides to buy a pair of skates that are hanging in the store window for the boy.

Mary also talks him into skating for the first time since he tried out for the Generals. He sneaks onto the rink after Jimmy and the kids have already left. While the audience doesn't actually see Robert skate, we find out the consequences as news spreads that he had a terrible fall.

In the final scene Mary helps him into the house and into his chair at the head of the table. After the rest of the family is filled in on what happened, Robert gives Simon his surprise gift and Jimmy gives him his stick.

With Robert laid up with a bad leg, Jimmy decides to stick around for a couple of days to help with the chores and invites them all to come see him play at the Ottawa Auditorium.

The performance which was held in the church at the Cumberland Heritage Village Museum, is the perfect example of community theatre at its best. The cast are all from the east end and the play's co-author Louisa Haché teaches at the Orléans Young Players Theatre School.

Pierre Laroque was outstanding as Robert Chaisson and Sydney Smith was fabulous as Simon. It should be noted that the play was performed in both French and English, following a tradition first begun with last year's holiday production of "Christmas in Cumberland".

Most of the French dialogue was delivered by Robert, while Sydney and Sylvie Lapointe, who played Mary Chaisson, switched back and forth from French to English effortlessly.

Anna Chaisson was played by Émélie Perron-Clow and the role of Jimmie Quinn was shared by Nick Dubus and James MacDougall. The rest of the cast included Sara Perron and Alexi-anne- Simard Lafond as Simon's friends Michelle and Armand, and Susan Flemming who took a break from playwriting to appear on stage for the first time in six years as Mary's mother Clara.

All in all, it was a lovely, quaint production which ties in nicely with celebrations marking the 125th anniversary of Ottawa's first hockey team and the upcoming World Junior Hockey Championships which are being held in Ottawa later this month.

An exhibit celebrating Ottawa’s rich hockey heritage is on display at the
City Hall Art Gallery with hundreds of artifacts provided by the City of Ottawa Archives. The gallery is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

(This story was made possible thanks to the generous support of our local business partners.)



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